A Laptop in Every American Backpack

   
   
   
   
   

Editors Note: This article by Alec Ross and Simon Rosenberg, is one of NDN's Series of Modest Proposals to Build 21st Century Skills first published in May 2007. Its introduction is republished here to remind us of an American need for one laptop per child. Read the full article here.

A single global communications network, composed of Internet, mobile, SMS, cable and satellite technology, is rapidly tying the world's people together as never before. The core premise of this paper is that the emergence of this network is one of the seminal events of the early 21st century.

Increasingly, the world's commerce, finance, communications, media and information are flowing through this network. Half of the world's 6 billion people are now connected to this network, many through powerful and inexpensive mobile phones. Each year more of the world's people become connected to the network, its bandwidth increases, and its use becomes more integrated into all that we do.


USA school kids exploring IT

Connectivity to this network, and the ability to master it once on, has become an essential part of life in the 21st century, and a key to opportunity, success and fulfillment for the people of the world. We believe it should be a core priority of the United States to ensure that all the world's people have access to this global network and have the tools to use it for their own life success.

There is no way any longer to imagine free societies without the freedom of commerce, expression, and community, which this global network can bring. Bringing this network to all, keeping it free and open and helping people master its use must be one of the highest priorities of those in power in the coming years.

This paper offers thoughts on one piece of this commitment - how we best bring the power of this network to America's schoolchildren. Achieving the American Dream in this century increasingly requires fluency in the ways of this network and its tools - how to acquire information and do research, how to construct reports and present ideas using these new tools, how to type and even edit video.

We believe we need a profound and urgent national commitment to give this powerful new 21st knowledge, essential for success in this century, to all American school children. We believe that America needs to put a laptop in every backpack of every child. We need to commit to a date and grade certain: we suggest 2010 for every sixth grader.

These laptops need to be wirelessly connected to the Internet, and children need to be able to take them home. Local school districts should choose how best to do this, but there needs to be federal funding and simple, federal standards. Funds and strategies for how training our teachers to lead this transformation need to be part this commitment.

We believe it will cost at first $2 billion a year to provide every 6th grader a laptop, about what we spend in Iraq every week. Hardware costs continue to plummet each year, and the idea of a $200 laptop or classmate PC is coming ever closer to reality. It is not a question of resources, but of vision and political will. Libya has just announced a national commitment to give all its school children a laptop. If Libya can do it, so can America.

Giving our children the tools for computer literacy is the 21st century equivalent to teaching them how to read. In the "flat world" described by Tom Friedman, there can be no life success without it this knowledge, no real chance to seize the American Dream, no secure and prosperous road to the middle class. We believe giving every school child a laptop must be an essential part of any strategy to ensure broad-based prosperity for America in the 21st century.

So, let's look at what it might require to put a laptop in every backpack.

Editors Note: This article by Alec Ross and Simon Rosenberg, is one of NDN's Series of Modest Proposals to Build 21st Century Skills first published in May 2007. Its introduction is republished here to remind us of an American need for one laptop per child.

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6 Comments

Pure nonsense.

There is no pressing need to provide a laptop to every kid anywhere in the world, let alone the USA.

Better schools, better teachers, lower class sizes and INTELLIGENT use of technology will result in better-educated kids.

The use of technology in education is NOT about handing kids a laptop and hoping for the best. Such boneheaded approach is the fantasy of geeks, who think that blind use of technology is the solution to any problem.

I'm going to have to agree with Irv. Technology needs to be used carefully, prescriptively, with a mission, and tracked for effectiveness.

I also think the laptop needs to replace books. I'm tired of heavy books that are not searchable but wear out. Just last year my son both broke a book (OK I did, I dropped it) and lost a book. These are probably 12 year old books.

Schools can neither afford books nor curriculum. A few years back my town of 50k spent 1/2 million on reading curriculum k-5 for the district. An awful lot for crappy curriculum.

We need to create our own free open source curriculum. Field test it. And use rugged & reasonable priced laptops to disseminate the books, texts, worksheets, tests, and whatever else. It needs to be open, simple, cheap, and have free curriculum.

No question about it as PC is a necessity nowadays...

Future is for notebooks and netbooks. Today they have almost the same possibilities as standalone PC

I agree that the use of technology in education is NOT about handing kids a laptop and hoping for the best.

Thanks for taking the time to discuss and share this with us, I for one feel trongly about it and really enjoyed learning more about this topic. I can see that you possess a degree of expertise on this subject, I would like to hear much more from you on this.

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